The Funston family was of Scotch-Irish descent. The family emigrated from Scotland to the County of Donegal, Ireland about the middle of the 17th century. They were Presbyterian in faith. Paul and Ann Funston, great grandparents of Frederick N., were born in Ireland in 1749 and 1756 respectively. They immigrated to the United States in 1806, first to Virginia and subsequently settling in Paris Kentucky where they remained for a short period of time before moving to Ohio in 1807 settling on a farm near Donnelsville.
While yet living in Ireland Ann gave birth to a son in 1800 who they named Frederick, grandfather to our Frederick N. He grew up along-side his brothers and sisters working on the farm. He later met and married Julia, the daughter of Sarah and James Stafford, neighbors, who lived not far away and who were staunch members of the McKendree Church Society. James also had served in the war of 1812. The Stafford family emigrated from Northern Ireland to Virginia, and from there in 1810 to Pike Township, Clark County.
According to Funston family history written by granddaughter Ella Funston Eckdall, sister to our Frederick N., “Grandfather Frederick was highly respected in the community in which he lived. Although he was a man of powerful physique, he succumbed in early life (40) to a severe blow to the head from a falling beam of an old fashioned cider press operated on his farm near Donnelsville. He left a family of sons and daughters, all of whom became a part of that great body of substantial citizens who made the American homestead famous and the name of their country honored.” He, along with his mother and father, Paul and Ann, other relatives and families are buried in the Brandenburg Cemetery located on North Hampton-Donnelsville road. Ann died April 30, 1825 at the age of 65. She was described by Ella as a “frail little being confined to an invalid’s chair for seventeen long years, who despite her affliction, retained her courageous spirit and her Christian faith to the end.” Husband Paul is buried close by. He died October 15, 1839, age 90 years. Frederick died October 29, 1840.
Edward Hogue Funston was born 16 September 1836 to Frederick and Julia Stafford Funston on the homestead family farm where he grew to manhood. By the early 1850’s, citizens of New Carlisle and the surrounding community began a movement to address the need for more schooling and education to better prepare their children for college and to meet the needs for an ever changing country. As a result of this movement, New Carlisle Linden Hill Academy, a Co-educational private academy, opened in 1852 with 56 females and 80 male students enrolled. One of those enrolled was 16 year old, 6 foot 2 inch “Ed” Funston. He had received much of his early education by his mother who was now determined to see that he was properly prepared for a college education. School chum and classmate Elihu Stephen Williams described Edward Funston as “a large overgrown 16 year old boy when I first knew him, who was energetic and enthusiastic in his studies, but at all times ready to fight or frolic, as the occasion required.” He did quite well making good grades at Linden Hill and in 1858 he enrolled in Marietta College.
Ann Elisha Mitchell was born in 1843 on a farm a mile southwest of West Charleston in Miami County known at that time as the Swigert farm (her mother’s maiden name was Swigert, a family well known to early settlers in Bethel Township, Miami County, who were of German descent). In later year it was known as the Harrison Deam farm. Her parents soon after moved to Victory, at that time a village on the National road east of the Miami River and opposite the village of Tadmor. Sometime later her family moved to New Carlisle and assumed ownership of the hotel.
The Mitchell family had immigrated to Virginia when it was still a colony, and settled near Culpeper Court House. Ann’s great grandfather, Pomeroy Mitchell was a veteran of the Revolutionary war. He married Margaret Van Meter, a niece to Daniel Boone and a cousin to Major Meriwether Lewis, explorer of the Rocky Mountain region and leader of the “Lewis and Clark Expedition.” Ms. Van Meter was born in 1769 in North Carolina. When as a girl in her teens, she married a Revolutionary War soldier by the name of Neal. He soon afterwards died. She later met and married Pomeroy Mitchell. They raised a family of seven children, six boys and one girl. In 1807 they came to Clark County and settled on a farm 3 miles east of New Carlisle.
Ann was educated at the Linden Hill Academy and it was here that she was to meet her future husband to be, Edward. He was seven years older than Ann. Even so, she became smitten with his good looks and boisterous demeanor, and determined to strike up a relationship with this handsome chap. Both Ann and Edward received good educational backgrounds at the Academy and were especially well trained in music, she on piano and he on the flute, an avocation they carried on throughout the remainder of their lives.
The rising sectional bitterness, the rush toward disunion throughout the 1850’s, and the election of Abraham Lincoln to the office of President of the United States in 1860, finally brought the long debate over States rights and the issue of slavery between the north and the south to a head. By March of 1861, Seven Southern States had carried out their threat of seceding from the union, and with the bombardment by southern forces of Fort Sumter in the harbor of South Carolina on April 12 and 13, and Major Robert Anderson’s surrender on April 14 there was no turning back. The Civil War had come!
Edward, now twenty-five years of age and caught up in the fervor of the looming Civil War, decide to leave the halls of Marietta College to join the federal forces. He returned home to make preparations for joining the northern cause to heed President Lincoln’s call to save the union.
Before leaving for service, he and Ann made the decision, with their family’s blessings, to go ahead and get married. On September 4, 1861, Ann, now eighteen, and Edward twenty-five married at the Mitchell House (Hay House, Carlisle House, New Carlisle Inn), owned and operated by Ann’s father James. The inn was located on the northeast corner on Main and Jefferson, now occupied by Rite Aid Drug Store. Ann was a great grandniece of Daniel Boone and a first cousin to Captain James A. Mitchell, Lieutenant Isaac Mitchell, Pomeroy Mitchell, A. Bartley Mitchell and James H. Mitchell, all of whom served during the Civil War in the Sixteenth Battery of Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery, U.S.A.
The day following the marriage, September 5, 1861, Edward was mustered into the service as a second Lieutenant and was at once assigned the task to assist in recruitment of men from New Carlisle and the surrounding area to join the 16th Battery. Throughout the duration of the war Edward served in various capacities always with distinction. He was mustered out of the service in the summer of 1865 and returned to New Carlisle in time to witness the birth of his son, Frederick N. Funston on November 9, 1865. The birth took place in the Mitchell House on the second floor of the two-story “L” shaped framed structure where Ann had been living with her parents during the absence of Edward. Ann and Edward were to have four other children during their long marriage; four sons, James Burton, Edward Hogue, Jr., Aldo, Pogue Warwick, and one sister, Ella.
After returning home, Ed Funston, like so many other Civil War veterans, caught-up in the excitement of moving westward to claim land, joined that movement. Casting about for a suitable location to establish new roots, he looked toward Kansas, the state he had helped to free from the hated yoke of slavery.
Arriving in Wyandotte, Kansas late in the year 1867, and being unfavorably impressed with conditions there, he turned his attention to the country further south, and stopped in Allen County. Stepping from the stage coach at the Covert Inn, a short distance south of the village of Carlyle, he was greatly surprised and immensely pleased to meet an old acquaintance, John Covert of Hopewell, Indiana, keeper of the inn. While teaching school as a young man in Hopewell, Edward had lived with the Covert family. It was here that he began his search for a farm. Within a short period of time he was able to purchase a farm for $1200 from John T. Iddings, and it would be here that he would make his home for the next forty-four years, or until the end of his life.
In the spring of 1868, Elisha, with her two small sons Frederick and James, left New Carlisle for their new home in Kansas. Edward had sent the following instructions. “From Kansas City, go to Lorence (Lawrence) and change cars for Ottawa, and then take the stage for Carlyle.” Ann and the children safely reached their destination. “Attired in her Ohio finery, and bringing with her an extensive wardrobe of silks, hoop skirts, poke bonnets (projecting brim), dolman (capelike flaps instead of sleeves) coats, sable furs and a green “watered silk” opera cape,” exclaimed daughter Ella in the family history, “she arrived after a long tiresome journey at the Covert Inn where Edward met her. It was early springtime when they arrived and the prairies were awakening from their long winters sleep; the snow was melting on the slopes, the faint odor of grasses, wild flowers and freshly turned sod came from over the breezy uplands.”
Scarcely had they arrived at their new home when Edward began planning his future crop planting in different fields, while maintaining a home, making improvements and additions as needed and most important of all, providing for his family. He looked forward to the accomplishment of higher and greater things
Ella further remarks in the history, “that coming as her mother did from a home where rosewood and mahogany were in common use, what her reactions at the sight of the little cabin upon the open prairie might have been. A fainter heart might have turned back, but she did not. Her faith in the future of her husband that he would do right in the new and undeveloped country, obviously gave her the strength and courage to meet and conquer the difficulties of pioneer life.”
Being a man of education, a constant reader of history, literature and the sciences, and an interested student of state and national affairs, he was capable and able to make his voice heard among the best of men (so much so that he soon picked up the nickname of ‘Foghorn’ Funston, the Farmer’s friend). These skills and abilities instinctively led him to the field of politics. He was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1873, ‘74, ‘75 and was chosen as the Speaker in 1875. He later was elected to the State Senate in 1880 serving for four years and was chosen as President Pro Tempore of that august body. On March 1, 1884 he was elected to the 48th U. S. House of Representatives from the Second District as a Republican, and was re-elected to the 49th, 50th, 51st and 52nd Congress. He was for many years Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture. According to some historical accounts, Edward was instrumental in converting the Office of Commissioner of Agriculture into the Secretary of Agriculture in the President’s Cabinet.
In an article appearing in an issue of the 1910 New Carlisle Sun, J. C. Williams wrote a story he refers to as “Reminiscences of Linden Hill,” describing a recent trip he and other local residents had made in a visit to Iola, Kansas, where they had enjoyed a reunion with former classmate, including Ed Funston and other New Carlisle residents, who had all attended the old Linden Hill Academy many years earlier. The following is a part of the text of that story.
“Through the vicissitudes of life and the ever changing drama of the same, we were led not by accident but by previous arrangements to the homes of a number of students of Linden Hill who were in the early morning of life, our classmates, when Linden Hill was a very important factor in the affairs of the community in the creation of public sentiments for the right, in political and religious matters, as well as every moral and uplifting influence that tended to purify and better society.”
“It is needless for us to say who the leading spirits were in the great work of education and the building up of character among the students that attended the institution of learning that flourished here nearly sixty-years ago. And as we recall, by the aid of memory, the sterling character of such men as professor Thomas Harrison and the Reverend Roger Johnson, (pastor of the Homey Creek Presbyterian Church), who by their superior force od character impressed upon the minds of their students lessons of truth and virtue that has never been effaced. We feel that this community owes to their memory this tribute.”
Williams goes on to say, “far away toward the setting sun and the green fields of the sun flower state, in the beautiful city of Iola, we were permitted to greet a number of the boys and girls, who over a half-century ago labored with us to solve the various problems of our respective lessons as presented by our teachers. Life at that time appeared to us as one bright sea of lovely flowers and roses. Our hopes were high, our ambitions unbounded, fame, wealth and happiness filled the future. Unconscious of the stern realities of life that awaited us, we went forth to battle with a vim and vigor that apparently knew no defeat. But, as we have said, almost three score years have passed since those halcyon days; sorrow and trial came, the flowers of early life seemed all brushed away, the furrowed brow, the silver hair, the tear stained cheek was painfully present as this class of students met around the table in the hospitable home of life-long friend Asa Mitchell. Those present included Honorable Ed Funston and his estimable wife, who is so well remembered by many as Lida Mitchell, Captain William McClure, wife and daughter and other.”
“Mr. Funston is living on his farm consisting of three hundred and fifty acres, five miles north of Iola. He is devoting his time to the supervision of his farm, yet he is a close student of current events and is thoroughly versed as to the political situation in his adopted state, and the public affairs of the nation.”
Mr. Williams concludes his reminiscences with a discussion of Iola’s rise and progress-a beautiful city of about 12,000 inhabitants, well paved streets and electric cars reaching to every part of the city, varied assortment of industries, with the manufacturing of Portland cement being the principle one, with the largest cement factory in the world located there having an output of 5000 barrels daily.
He ends by thanking his friend Asa Mitchell and his wife for the pleasure of their visit to Iola. “The Ohio contingent at this place is pleasantly situated, have beautiful homes and we could see no reason why they should not be happy. We reluctantly bid them goodbye and hasten on our journey to the far away south and west where new conditions arise in human affairs of which we may write about later on.”
Late one day in the fall of 1911, when the fields had been gleaned of their harvest, and the earth was buried beneath a blanket of brown and yellow leaves, Edward Hogue Funston, 75 years of age, sat in his red armchair beneath the jasmine vine on the front porch of the old home, and for the last time, watched the sun wrapped in its glorious robes, slowly sink beneath the shale hills to the west. A useful, purposeful, colorful Christian life passed on, one of which his maker might well be proud. Surviving Edward by but a few years, Ann Elisha Mitchell Funston, like a dainty flower that radiated sweetness, encouraging and cheering her family on their way, dropped the delicate petals and closed upon the stem, and she too was no more.
In every way, it would seem, Frederick N. Funston grew up in his father’s shadow. As has already been reported, dad Funston was six feet two and one half inches tall and weighed over two hundred pounds. Young Frederick was exactly five feet, four inches tall and weighed approximately 120 pounds. He was educated in the public schools in Iola, Kansas, attended the University of Kansas (but did not graduate), ultimately becoming one of the few commanding generals of the United States Army who was not a West Point graduate. He failed his admission test to the United States Military Academy in 1884 primarily due to his slight stature. Upon leaving the University of Kansas he worked as a ticket conductor for the Santa Fe railroad before becoming a reporter in Kansas City in 1890.
After one year as a journalist, with assistance from his Congressman father, Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, Frederick was hired and placed on the U.S. Department of Agriculture payroll at a salary of $185 per month as a field botanist. Soon he was engaged in fieldwork, part of the first government attempt to survey and catalogue Death Valley in 1891. His next assignment was to Alaska in April of 1893 where he was to paddle a canoe about 1500 miles for the purpose of tracing the Yukon River from its frozen headwaters through the treacherous Miles Canyon and the White Horse rapids. Hearing rumors of a trapped whaling fleet on the Arctic Ocean, the ever-restless Funston made the 600 mile round trip on snowshoes. Running out of food he was forced to kill one of his sled dogs. As a result of the expedition, he was enabled to produce a scientific paper, “The Botany of Yakytat Bay” in 1896.
Following a rousing speech given by Civil War General Daniel E. Sickles at Madison Square Garden in support of the Cuban insurgents in their revolution for independence against Spain, Funston enlisted in the Cuban Revolutionary Army as an artillery officer, even though he had never fired a cannon. He was able to secure a 12-pound Hotchkiss Cannon instructional manual and spend several weeks training himself.
During his time in Cuba, he fought in many individual battles, rose in rank from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel and was three times wounded. In March 1897, taking part in the siege of Jiguani under the famed Cuban General Calixto Garcia, he was struck on the arm with a shard of hot shrapnel. A month behind the lines on a medical furlough helped heal his mangled arm, but he had hardly returned to duty when he was shot through both lungs and later his horse was shot from under him, causing it to fall on him breaking his thigh. While recuperating in a jungle hospital, he contacted typhoid and may have also been suffering from a bout with malaria. His weight dropped to an alarming 95 pounds and, after being refused permission by Garcia for release from duty, he forged papers sending him on a fabricated secret mission. He made his way to the coast where he was captured by the Spanish, interrogated and, had it not been for his quick wit and never failing nerve, he escaped being shot by eating his forged papers and convincing his captors that he was of no use to them. They agreed. He was acquitted by the Spanish Court-Martial that tried him for fighting against the flag of Spain, ordered him out of Cuba, and placed him on the next American-bound ship.
As Funston’s ship steamed pass Key West, the U. S. Maine rode at anchor waiting for the orders that would send it to Havana harbor. Little did he know at that time, but America was on the eve of real War. His military career had hardly begun. By March 1898, the U.S. Maine lay at the bottom of Havana harbor and President McKinley and Congress were just about ready to turn loose America’s untested war machine against Spain. When war was declared (April 25, 1898), Kansas formed three infantry regiments. Frederick Funston was made a colonel of the 20th Kansas Volunteers in May 1898.
Colonel Funston was not sent back to Cuba, but rather sailed for Manila in the Philippines as part of the U. S. forces in the Philippine-American War on October 25-two months after Spain had capitulated. He was placed in the brigade of Harrison Gray Otis in the division of Major General Arthur MacArthur (father of Douglas MacArthur of WW II fame).
Two weeks prior to his being shipped out Frederick, thirty-three years old married twenty-one year old Eda Blankart a pretty Oakland, California music teacher at a patriotic gathering in the fall of 1898. According to Funston, marrying Ms. Blankart was “by all odds the smartest thing I ever did in my life.” A few weeks after landing in Manila he arranged for Eda to join him. From that time on Eda and the children followed the General as his military career led him to bases across the country. During the nineteen years of their marriage they became the parent of four children...two sons, Arthur MacArthur and Frederick, Jr., and two daughters Barbara Eda and Eleanor Elizabeth Funston. After Frederick’s death in 1917, Eda remained loyal to the Funston legacy. She remained in San Francisco for the rest of her life and for several years lived with her daughters in the Sea View area near the Presidio. On January 7, 1932, at the age of fifty-five, Eda suffered a fatal heart attack and died. She was survived by three of her four children all residents of San Francisco.
When the American navel units under Commodore (later Admiral) Dewey arrived in 1898, the rebel leaders believed the Americans were there to free the Philippines from Spain, as they had done in Cuba. But to the surprise and outrage of the Filipinos, the treaty signed between Spain and the United States in late 1898 ceded the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico over to the United States supervision. In February 1899, thirty-six hours before the U. S. Congress was to vote on the treaty, and American sentry shot a number of drunken Filipino soldiers who had wandered across the American lines, and the Philippine insurrection was on in earnest. Before it ended, it would take three years and cost nearly 5,000 American lives and 250,000 Filipinos lives.
Commanding the Filipino forces was General Emilio Aguinaldo, an idealistic firebrand. After leading the resistance to Spain, he had been elected President of the ill-fated Philippine Republic. Aguinaldo and his advisors at first looked at America as their protector, basing their constitution on ours. Now, Aguinaldo wrote, they had “no honorable recourse but to resist the American action.”
Colonel Funston’s dashing style and bravado quickly won him headlines, and his superiors, in need of good publicity for what was soon becoming an unpopular war, encouraged him. He courted reporters as shamelessly as the most senior commanders, but he was young, athletic and unafraid. He possessed a gift for colorful invectives, and whether they loved him or hated him, newspapers all covered his exploits. Pencils poised, the reporters would politely ask, “Colonel, your view on Aguinaldo and his army?” “A cold-blooded murderer and a would-be dictator” presiding over “a drunken uncontrollable mob” with “the minds of children.”
In some ways the Philippine Insurrection invites comparison to the Vietnam War. Word began to filter home about inevitable combat savageries-but also about atrocities against helpless prisoners of war and civilians. Funston denied them blaming such stories on correspondents “whom no one knew either in Manila or on the firing line.” He was brave to the point of being foolhardy, often risking his life to jump into the action when a prudent officer would have sent a subordinate. His men though, placed great trust in him because they knew he would not order them to do something he would not do himself. At the wide Rio Grande de Pampanga, when U. S. troops were halted by heavy enemy fire, Funston took a platoon across on rafts. They established a beachhead, occupied a series of trenches, and finally cleared the Filipino position. For this feat, he and private’s William Trembley, and Edward White received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Funston was promoted to Brigadier General of the Kansas Volunteers.
After a well-deserved furlough and a hero’s welcome in San Francisco and Kansas, he was given command of a brigade in the central Luzon plains. By this time Aguinaldo had ordered his army to disband, adapt civilian clothing and continue the war as guerrillas. Seventy thousand American troops were bogged down by Aguinaldo’s sporadic guerrilla war of attrition. The capture of a Filipino messenger carrying documents from the elusive Aguinaldo was the break the Americans had been waiting for. The messenger was “forcibly encouraged” to provide the information as to the whereabouts of Aguinaldo. He informed Funston that a small band of guerrilla’s, along with Aguinaldo, had scaled the Sierra Madre and were now in the tiny isolated village of Palanan, on the Pacific coastal plain.
Brigadier General Funston concocted a brilliant, but daring, characteristic hazardous scheme to now capture Aguinaldo. Captured documents indicated that Aguinaldo wanted reinforcements. He would be accommodated, but instead of his own loyal troops, he would be supplied with Filipino turncoats known as Macabebe-scouts who had eagerly worked for the Spanish and later joined the Americans. The bogus reinforcements would be accompanied by a group of five American prisoners including Funston. The other prisoners included a former New Carlisle native by the name of Burton Mitchell son of Asa Mitchell from Iola Kansas and a cousin to Frederick, Lieutenant Oliver Hazzard and his brother Captain Russell Hazzard, and a dashing young Spaniard in Funston’s employee by the name Lazaro Segovia, along with three of Aguinaldo’s former officers, Hilario Talplacido, Gregorio Cadhit and Dionisio Bato.
Finally, March 6, 1901, the company of Macabebe scouts, 77 in all, assembled at the harbor in Manila Bay and boarded the U.S.S. Vicksburg and under secret orders the ship moved south past Corregidor and around the southern Luzon Coast. None of the Filipinos knew, at that time, what the mission would be. Eight days later, Thursday 14 March, just shortly after midnight, near Casiguran Sound, 87 men slipped into cutters and were conveyed to the beach. They entered the village of Casiguran, where the villagers were allies and supporters of Aguinaldo. Unknowingly, the villagers supplied them food for their arduous and difficult journey of approximately 100 mile through terrain heavily timbered, fringed with cliffs, nearly inaccessible. On the ninth day, nearly out of rations, several of the company suffering from fatigue, malnutrition and illness from their extremely difficult trek up mountains, fording scores of rivers and thrashing through innumerable forest, they neared the village of Palanan where Aguinaldo and his band of guerrillas were located. The entry in to Palanan by Sergovia was peaceful and without incident. Funston, along with the other four prisoners would wait out of sight until signaled to show themselves.
Aguinaldo had assembled an honor guard of sixty soldiers to receive the Macabebe “reinforcements.” Segovia, Talplacido and other officers awaited the arrival of Aguinaldo, who clad in a plain khaki uniform and wearing fancy Spanish riding boots entered. Segovia and the others leaped to their feet giving him a crisp military salute. He welcomed them with a firm handshake, asking how the war was going in Luzon. Segovia excused himself to go outside to check on his men. By prearranged signal he raised his hat and the town square erupted in gunfire as the scouts fired into the unsuspecting honor guard. The Spaniards rushed into the room with guns drawn yelling surrender, an order which Aguinaldo and his officers complied. Dazed, with tears in his eyes he asked, “Is this not some joke?” By this time Funston was in the room. “You are a prisoner of war of the U. S. Army,” the Kansan said to the still perplexed Aguinaldo.
News of the capture spread quickly over the war-troubled United States and almost instantly Americans took Funston to their hearts for granting them such an amazing victory. On street corners and in the taverns, in the corridors of power and the halls of state, debates ensued over what could be an adequate reward for such a heroic feat. General MacArthur exclaimed, “The capture of Aguinaldo was the result of a daring plan by Funston that was brilliant in conception and faultless in execution.”
Frederick Funston was awarded the Silver Star and a promotion to Brigadier General in the Regular Army. The fan mail poured in, including a letter from his hero, Vice President Teddy Roosevelt, postmarked Oyster Bay, New York, March 31, 1901: “My Dear General,” Roosevelt wrote. “I take pride in this crowning exploit of a career filled with feats of cool courage, iron endurance and gallant daring, because you have added your name in the honor roll of American worthies.” Fred Funston must have grinned more widely over this praise from the Vice President, than over the many letters and telegrams he had already received. Like Roosevelt, “Fightin’ Fred” Funston had crammed many experiences into a rigorous lifetime. He had survived Death Valley and the Yukon; he had charged across battlefields in Cuba and the Philippines, and had emerged mostly intact and mostly honored. Like Roosevelt, he shared T. R.’s enthusiasm for U. S. expansionism (Manifest Destiny) as a new major power in the world. There was even talk of running the two tough talking, ambitious war hero’s on the 1904 Presidential ticket. But that was not to be.
President William McKinley was also quick to acknowledge Frederick Funston’s daring and successful mission. In a letter written to Frederick’s father Edward, referring to the capture of Aguinaldo in the Philippine insurrection, he writes: “I wish to congratulate you upon the gallantry of your son, whose appointment (Brig General in the Regular Army) is deserved and whose services are applauded by his countrymen,” and in acknowledgement of their friendship, referring to Edward Hogue Funston, the President said, “I often think of our services together in the House of Representatives.”
Only one year later, dashing all of Funston’s hopes for a political career, like his father before him, Roosevelt was to change his mind, and so would others. The acerbic Funston, never one reluctant to speak his mind, continued to express contempt for the hypocrisy of political leaders (sound familiar) who at the start of the war had boldly wanted the United States to strip Spain of everything, but now were ”playing politics and gambling with the blood of their countrymen.” President Roosevelt sent word that he was in “cordial sympathy” with Funston, but could he please be less outspoken. Unheeding. Funston continued to speak his mind at lodge dinners and testimonials from San Francisco to Denver, Chicago and New York, trailing outraged editorials and calls for his court martial.
The final straw occurred when Funston publicly insulted anti-imperialist Republican Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts, mocking his “overheated conscience” in a speech made in Denver just before a planned furlough trip to Boston. Under fire not only about Funston but about the U. S. militarism he had done so much to encourage, President Roosevelt, on April 21, 1902, sent the following letter to the Secretary of War: “I call attention to the enclosed report of a speech by General Funston. The reference to the senior senator from Massachusetts is entirely improper as a general of the army. I think that General Funston will have to be requested not to make any more public speeches. I appreciate to the full his great service. I am in cordial sympathy with his general view of the Philippines, but he expresses himself at times in a way that is very unfortunate.” Funston was denied his furlough request and ordered to make no further public utterances. A letter of censure went into the general’s military record as well. There would be no further talk about Vice President Funston.
Despite the dramatic fall from grace that arguably showed all the element of a classical tragedy, the curtain was not yet ready to fall on this controversial and historically revealing life. Raw edged and rambunctious, impetuous as he was, Funston was in many ways emblematical of his country’s 19th century personality and aspirations. As the U. S. finally tamed a continent and began peering across the seas, Frederick Funston matched our restless thrust, gaining as much fame from his fearless exploits as he did notoriety for ignoring the rules.
By nature, of course, he was not happy as a peacetime soldier. Action was his genius. Little was heard from Brig. General Funston for the next four years. In April 1906, fate once again gave him a chance to regain a hero’s luster. He was serving as Commander, Department of California, at the Presidio (garrisoned fort or military post) under the division command of Gen. Adolphus W. Greely. By sheer good or bad luck, Greely was on his way to his daughter’s wedding in Chicago when at 5:16 a.m. on April 18, 1906, Funston was awakened by a large jolt. It was an earthquake, and it had destroyed a large part of the city of San Francisco. He determined that the military was going to be needed and immediately took command of the city, although martial law was never officially declared. He ordered out a majority of troops from all military installations in the area. Funston organized and directed the soldiers to patrol against looters, guard banks and other properties, and dynamited buildings to contain the 4-square-mile fire, as well as create fire-breaks to contain the out-of-control burning of the city.
Just how bad was the situation that General Funston faced? Within two days after the quake, every bank, hotel, and almost every large storeroom and warehouse in the city had been destroyed. Funston’s quick and decisive action in dispatching the Army to aid the stricken was crucial, and no doubt averted a complete catastrophe. Approximately 300,000 people were homeless and hungry. Four days after the quake the fire burnt itself out and Funston set up efficient local refugee camps, ration stations and a plan for recovery. Over 16,000 found safe refuge at the Presidio. The victims, both at the Presidio and other sites elsewhere throughout the city, were fed and clothed, and provided emergency medical treatment when and where needed.
There were those who objected that he had exceeded his authority and acted contrary to military law, while others hailed him as a hero who did what was necessary in the face of the disaster. Indeed, as time moved on he was referred to as “The man that saved San Francisco.” Some year’s later, President Woodrow Wilson wrote about Funston’s handling of the great quake and fire; “His genius and manhood brought order out of confusion, confidence out of fear and much comfort in distress.”
From December 1907 through March 1908, Funston was in charge of troops at the Goldfield mining center in Esmeralda County, Nevada, where the army put down a labor strike by the Industrial Workers of the World. After two years as Commander of the Army Service School in Fort Leavenworth, he served three years as Commander of the Department of Luzon in the Philippines, then was briefly shifted to the same role in the Hawaiian Department.
Seven years (March 11, 1913) after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, A. A. Watkins, President of the Board of Trade of San Francisco wrote the following letter to the newly inaugurated President Woodrow Wilson: Dear Sir:
Speaking on behalf of the wholesale merchants and manufacturers of San Francisco, this Association earnestly request you appoint Brigadier General Funston to the position of Major General of the United States Army to fill the vacancy occurring in that grade. We understand that Brigadier General Funston is the ranking Brigadier General of the line of the Army and in view of his great services to San Francisco when our city was devastated by earthquake and fire, we respectfully urge that General Funston is entitled to and should receive the promotion in question.
Funston’s next moment in the spotlight happened during the Mexican Border Conflict of 1914. The 49-year old combat veteran had been sent to the area to take command of U.S. forces massing on the Texas border. This action was a response by President Wilson to the instability caused by the presidency of newly elected Mexican President Victoriano Huerta and the capture of several U. S. Marines. Wilson ordered the city of Vera Cruz, Mexico taken after a German merchant ship carrying munitions for Huerta was reported heading for the port. After a brief fight in which 17 Americans and 200 Mexicans were killed, Funston was ordered to take 5,000 troops to the city to relieve the Navy and Marine personnel who had secured the city. He was then appointed military governor of the city with orders to organize effective methods of Administration, set up an efficient ration system and maintain civil order. Funston’s experience, leadership and ability as an able diplomat when dealing with local Mexican authorities, plus keeping his troops out of violent confrontation, ultimately forced the resignation of Huerta from the presidency. He fled to Jamaica. American forces were evacuated on November 23, 1914. Six days earlier, Funston had been promoted to the rank of Major General (the highest rank in the U. S. Army at the time) for his successful mission in Vera Cruz.
Major General Funston’s final chapter of service to his country occurred in 1916, again on the border of Mexico. Revolution, the slaying of unarmed Americans in Mexico, and the raids of Francisco “Pancho” Villa north of the border had increased tensions between the United States and Mexico. On March 9, 1916, Villa and 1,500 guerillas attacked the New Mexico town of Columbus, killing 17 Americans. Funston recommended a pursuit of the outlaw, which was approved. He sent his subordinate, Brigadier General John J. Pershing and several thousand troops across the border to hunt down Villa. Though they spend a year searching, they never caught him. It would be 1920 before the revolution in Mexico would finally be resolved. Peace was obtained by Mexico’s interim president, Adolph De la Huerta, negotiating with Villa for his retirement. He was pardoned and received a hacienda in Chihuahua. Three years later on July 20, 1923, he was gunned down while riding in his car along a Mexican highway.
On February 19, 1917, Frederick Funston was having dinner with a friend in the Peacock Room of the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. He was at the time commander of the Department of the Army at Fort Sam Houston. He had finished dinner and was listening to the hotel orchestra playing the Strauss Waltz, “The Blue Danube,” and said, “How beautiful it is...You know there is no music as sweet as the old tunes.” “A moment later there was a sharp intake of breath, the figure relaxed, and the heart that had so often beaten the battle charge for his willing feet...the heart upon whose altars the fires of loyalty to flag and country had burned unceasingly, was still, and the dauntless spirit of the greatest and best loved military leader the United States had produced since the Civil War had taken its flight,” said his lifelong friend, Charles F. Scott.
Major Douglas MacArthur, son of Gen. Arthur MacArthur, was on duty the evening of February 17 as night watch for the General Staff, when the news wire announcing General Funston’s death was received. Secretary of War Newton Baker was hosting a formal dinner for the President and had left word not to be disturbed unless something of importance took place. MacArthur, in consultation with others, who agreed with him, made the decision that the Secretary needed to be notified immediately. Arriving at Bakers home, the butler refused to allow him to enter. The commotion in the entrance hall subsequently caught the attention of Secretary Baker who instructed Major MacArthur to come in and inform them of what news he had, sarcastically exclaiming; “There are no secrets here.” MacArthur fearing he was in trouble clicked his heels together, saluted him, and in an authoritative tone announced, “Sir, I regret to report that General Funston has just died.” Many of those in attendance later reported, “The silence seemed like death itself. You could hear your own breathing.”
The President and the Secretary escorted MacArthur into an adjacent room where they dictated a message of sympathy to Mrs. Funston. President Wilson then turned to the Secretary and asked, “What now Newton, who will take command of the Army?” The Secretary paused for a moment and then turned to Major MacArthur and asked, “Whom do you think the Army would choose, Major?” MacArthur replied, “I cannot, of course, speak for the Army, but for myself the choice would be General Pershing.” The President quietly responded, “It would be a good choice.”
Major General Frederick N. Funston was 51 years-old when he died. The people of Texas showed their sincere gratitude and respect by opening their most sacred shine, the Alamo, so that he could lie in state there. He was the first person ever so honored. Thousands paid their respect to him during the three hours of public visitation. He was later carried to San Francisco by special train where he lay in state in the City Hall Rotunda and where once again, thousands awaited to have one last look and opportunity to pay their respect to the “Little General.” He was laid to rest in the Presidio where he had served as Commander of the Army and where he was highly acclaimed for his leadership during the Catastrophic Earthquake of 1906.
Had Frederick Funston lived, it is of little doubt that he would have continued to achieve great things. President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker had every intention of naming General Funston as commander of the United States Expeditionary Force to Europe upon our entrance into WW I. A less certain, but possible scenario is that had he lived he would have been pushed and, no doubt selected, to be the 1920 Republican Presidential candidate. Instead, former Army General Leonard Wood ran for the position, but loss to Senator Warren G. Harding in the hotly contested Republican Convention in Chicago losing to Harding on the tenth ballot by a majority of the conventions 984 votes.
Postscript: New Carlisle and Clark County can be justly proud of this native son, as well as our ties with the Funston family who chose to settle here in Bethel Township, Clark County, Ohio.